The refusal of the police to investigate Rebekah Wade

On 11 March 2003,  the then editor of the Sun newspaper,  Rebekah Wade (now Rebekah Brookes), admitted before the Culture,  Media and Sport Commons Select Committee that while she has been an  editor with News International  she had paid police  officers for  information. I was there and heard the admission. As a consequence I made an official complaint to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Sir John Stevens. My two letters to him are below.  The police refused to investigate, despite the fact that Wade’s admission was unambiguous and  formed part of the public record of  Parliament.  

The ongoing saga of the News of the World’s phone hacking habits which are the subject of both a criminal investigation and civil legal action has brought the general  question of illegally gained information by the press  into play. That in turn has resulted in  Wade’s 2003  admission coming under further police scrutiny. Whether it will result in a prosecution remains to be seen, but the fact that they are taking any notice of the matter now shows clearly the laissez-faire attitude of the police when it comes to starting an investigation.  They refused to countenance my complaint which was made very soon after her admission, yet now eight years after the event, they are looking at the matter. The evidence is at best no stronger now than it was when I made my complaint and at worse far weaker because of the time which has passed which gives opportunities for people to die, records to be destroyed and memories to fail or be claimed to have failed.  There is no legitimate reason for the police having refused my 2003 complaint while accepting that there is a case to answer now.  The most plausible illegitimate reason is that they did not want to investigate a powerful media figure and are only doing so now because while they could ignore me because I had no access to the mainstream media they cannot ignore the matter at present because it is now in the public fold.

Why would the police not wish to investigate someone like Wade?  Could it be that many police sell information to the media?  Here is Matt Born writing an article just after the Wade admission: ‘The relationship between the media and the police has long been a close and mutually profitable one. Payments  by  journalists to police officers have a long  history.  One long-retired crime correspondent recalls having a list of  officers  to whom  he  would regularly send a £5 note “wrapped in a plain  WH  Smith envelope”.  I’d  never use office stationary and I’d use a  different  typewriter each week so it couldn’t be traced,” he said.’ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1424573/Paying-the-police-newspapers-have-a-lot-of-form.html

Born goes on ‘In  1999,  an anti-corruption investigation by the Metropolitan  Police exposed  a private detective agency run by a former officer   that  was acting as an intermediary between the police and reporters. Jonathan  Rees,  the  owner of Southern  Investigations,  was  recorded claiming he was owed £12,000 by one tabloid. “Rees  and  (others) have for a number of years been  involved  in  the long-term   penetration   of   police   intelligence   sources,”    the investigation reported.  “They have ensured that they have live sources within  the  Metropolitan Police service and have  sought  to   recruit sources  within other forces.  This thirst for knowledge is  driven  by profit to be accrued from the  media.”‘

How are things now?  Born cites an unnamed source as saying “A  few years ago,  the papers would deal  directly with the cops,”  he said.  “But more and more now they use paid intermediaries  –   usually retired  or  ex-officers  who have plenty of  contacts  who  keep  them abreast of what’s going on.’

If this is true, then there is a deep and ongoing breaking of the law by large numbers of police through the provision of information to the media  and the media paying for it and the further possible criminal behaviour of  the police refusing to investigate honestly or at all members of the media because of their collusion in criminal practices involving the media.  That would constitute a perversion of the course of justice.

—————————————— 

My letters to Sir John Stevens

16-March 2003

To:

Sir John Stevens

Commissioner

Metropolitan Police

New Scotland Yard

10 The Broadway

London SW1

                                    cc  Rt Hon Gerald Kaufman MP

                                        Frank Doran MP

                                        John Thurso MP

                                        Rosemary McKenna MP

                                        Alan Keen MP

                                        Derek Wyatt MP

                                        Debra Shipley MP

                                        Chris Bryant MP

                                        Julie Kirkbride MP

                                        Michael Fabricant MP

                                        Adrian Flook MP

                                         Rebekah Wade

                                         Presswise

Dear Sir John,

 The payment of money to police for information

 I ask you to investigate a prima facie case of the corruption of police officers.  On 11 March 2003,  the editor of the Sun newspaper,  Rebekah Wade, admitted before the Culture,  Media and Sport Commons Select Committee that while she has been an  editor with News International  she had paid police  officers for  information.   The information was given in answer to  a direct question from the Labour MP, Chris Bryant.   I enclose a Daily Telegraph report dated 14  March 2003 which  contains details of Miss Wade’s admission.  I was also there in person when she made the admission. 

 By paying police officers  for information,  not only  does the  police  officer  commit a criminal   offence  under  the  Public  Bodies  Corruption  Act  1889  (as  amended   by  the  Prevention of Corruption Act of 1916) in receiving the  money or other material inducement,  so does the person paying  the bribe.   Any  one of normal intelligence  will  realise  that bribing police officers is illegal.

In  addition,  all police officers sign the Official  Secrets Act  (OSA).   They   commit  a  criminal  act   by  supplying information covered by the OSA.  Any information relating  to police work will be covered.  Similarly,  a person  receiving  information where they know the supplier is in breach of the OSA   by supplying it,   commits an offence by receiving  the information.    Both formal training courses for journalists and the various books designed to instruct journalists in the          relevant areas of the  law cover  the OSA’s implications for journalists.   Journalists will consequently know that police officers have signed the OSA and be aware of the implications for   themselves  of   receiving  information   from   police officers.  Even  if no money changes  hands,  the  journalist  still breaks the law if he knows he is receiving  information from someone who has signed the OSA. I  also enclose a letter from the Mirror editor Piers  Morgan to  the Press Complaints Commission  dated 16 Oct 1997.  This  contains  an  admission of the Mirror  receiving  information illegitimately  from the police.   I made a  complaint  about this some time ago and it was “investigated” by Det Supt Jeff  Curtis.  I put the investigated in quotes because  Mr  Curtis conducted his investigation without interviewing either Piers Morgan or the author of the story, Jeff Edwards. In fact,  he  did   not   go  near  the  Mirror. Doubtless   the   Met’s investigatory  methods have changed in recent years and  they now include questioning suspects. Consequently,  I ask  that you re-open the investigation of Mr Morgan and Mr Edwards and          actually interview them. 

In  view of  the Culture, Media and Sport Select  Committee’s interest,  I  am  sure that you will wish  to begin  a  most thorough  investigation immediately of these matters  and  to give them all priority.

Copies  of this letter have been sent to every member of  the select committee.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson

——————————————   

                                                  14 April  2003

Sir John Stevens

Commissioner

Metropolitan Police

New Scotland Yard

10 The Broadway

London SW1

                                    cc  Rt Hon Gerald Kaufman MP

                                        Frank Doran MP

                                        John Thurso MP

                                        Rosemary McKenna MP

                                        Alan Keen MP

                                        Derek Wyatt MP

                                        Debra Shipley MP

                                        Chris Bryant MP

                                        Julie Kirkbride MP

                                        Michael Fabricant MP

                                        Adrian Flook MP

                                        Rebekah Wade

                                        Presswise

Dear Sir John,

 The payment of money to police for information

 It  is  now  4 weeks (16 March) since I  wrote  to  you  with complaints  against  the Sun editor,  Rebekah Wade,  and  the Mirror  editor,  Piers Morgan.  My letter was sent  by  first class recorded delivery, as this one has been.

 To date I have not had as much as an acknowledgement. I would remind you that you have a duty to investigate any  complaint of  criminal  behaviour  and that  failure to do  so   is  an unambiguous  perversion of the course of justice. In your own interests you should begin an investigation ASAP.

 This  is  not your  first failure to act on  a  complaint  of mine.  I would remind you that your staff officer, Supt Simon Foy,  is  currently the subject of an  investigation  by  the head  of  internal investigations in the Met’s Department  of Professional  Standards,   DCS Tony Dawson,  who will in  due course submit a report to the PCA.   That investigation arose simply because Mr Foy failed to act on a complaint concerning serious  threats  to  me and incitements to violence  against          me made in the largest British political newsgroups. Fail to  investigate  this complaint and I will put  in  a  formal complaint against you to the DPS.

You could not have an easier pair of investigations to begin. Rebekah Wade made her admission at a select committee  public hearing   and  the hearing is  consequently  recorded,  while Piers  Morgan has admitted the offence in his letter  to  the PCC, a copy of which you have.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson

—————————————— 

                                                  13-March 2003

Chris Bryant MP

House of Commons

London SW1

Dear Mr Bryant,

You raised the question of paying the police  with  Rebekah Wade and Alan Rusbridger (11 March) and  in both cases  there was a great  deal of shuffling of mental and emotional feet.

There was a good reason for their concern.  By paying police officers  for information,  not only does the police  officer commit  an  offence under the  Public Bodies  Corruption  Act 1889  (as  amended  by the  Prevention of Corruption  Act  of 1916) in receiving the money or other material inducement, so does  the  person paying the bribe.   Moreover,   all  police officers sign the Official Secrets Act.  They breach  that by          supplying  confidential  information.  Similarly,   a  person receiving  information  where they know the  supplier  is  in breach  of  the Official Secrets Act commits  an  offence  by receiving it.   Both formal training courses for  journalists and the various books designed to instruct journalists in the relevant  areas of the  law,  cover  the Act’s   implications for  journalists.   Journalists will consequently  know  that police officers have signed the Act and the implications  for          themselves of  receiving information from them.

The  letter  from Piers Morgan to the PCC  which  I  enclose, contains  an  admission of the Mirror  receiving  information illegitimately  from  the police.  If you want  to  take  the matter  further you will not get a better chance than a  case built on an editor’s written  admission.

The  police  are notoriously  unwilling to  investigate  such cases.  There is no good legal  reason for this.  Wherever  a newspaper has information which is supposedly confidential to the  police,   the  police  have  reasonable   grounds    for believing  a  crime has been committed  and  can,  therefore, insist  on  interviewing the editor and those  of  his  staff involved in the story.

As to gathering the evidence,  even if the  mediafolk  refuse to  say  anything,  there is a very good  chance  of  finding records of the payments in the companies records.   (I  write  as  an  ex-Revenue investigator.   Petty cash and  cash  book records are favourite).

If you wish to take  the matter further,  arrange to meet me privately.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson

———————————

                                                  27 August  2003

Chris Bryant MP

House of Commons

London SW1

Dear Mr Bryant,

I  am  writing  to you privately because  you  were  the  CMS member  who  raised  the question of  press  bribery  of  the police.

You  will  find enclosed copies of the  correspondence  which shows the police,  including John Stevens and his staff,  are  deliberately refusing to investigate Rebekah Wade’s admission for no legitimate reason.

Do you really want to see a situation where the police simply ignore cast iron complaints?

Bribing  the police is a particularly  serious crime  because any  copper  who  takes  the  money  becomes  vulnerable   to  blackmail.   The fact that officer has taken the  money  also  means  he  is of a corrupt turn of mind and might  well  take money for anything.

Bribing a copper is an arrestable offence. In other words the police  can  simply arrest a suspect and bring  them  in  for  questioning.    They   have   absolutely   no   obstacle   to investigating  Wade who has admitted her crime  on  videotape before a Commons Committee. Open and shut case.

 Take this up and you can make a name for yourself.

 Yours sincerely,

 Robert Henderson

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